Archive for March, 2011

Japan auto sales plunge after tsunami

Thursday, March 31st, 2011 | Finance News

TOKYO – Japan's car sales plunged nearly 40 percent in March following the tsunami and nuclear disaster, an industry group said Friday.

Automakers sold 279,389 cars in Japan last month, down 37 percent — the biggest ever year-on-year drop for March, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said.

The plunge in sales was due to weak consumer sentiment following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which decimated much of northern Japan, and the ensuing radiation leaks at the coastal Fukushima nuclear power plant.

"People are simply reluctant to buy cars at this time. The tsunami and the ongoing nuclear disaster have depressed consumer sentiment," said association spokesman Masashi Miyajima.

Miyajima said many people in the quake-hit areas were also canceling car purchases.

The tsunami caused massive disruptions in the supply of auto parts, forcing Toyota Motor Corp. and others to suspend production.


Oil above $107 as Gadhafi pushes back Libya rebels

Thursday, March 31st, 2011 | Finance News

SINGAPORE – Oil prices rose above $107 a barrel Friday in Asia as investors worried a prolonged civil conflict in Libya will keep the OPEC nation's crude exports off the market longer than expected.

Benchmark crude for May delivery was up 36 cents to $107.08 a barrel at midday Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $2.45 to settle at $106.72 on Thursday.

In London, Brent crude was up 17 cents at $117.19 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange.

On Thursday, forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi continued to push back rebels, recapturing the key oil town of Brega. Most of Libya's 1.6 million barrels a day of crude output capacity has been shut down since the uprising began in February.

"The counteroffensive by Gadhafi loyalists has made it clear that we are miles from the end-zone and even further from the end-game," Cameron Hanover said in a report. "And Libyan oil is unlikely to return to the market any time soon."

In other Nymex trading for April contracts, heating oil fell 0.8 cent to $3.11 a gallon and gasoline added 2.1 cents to $3.11 a gallon. Natural gas dropped 0.8 cent to $4.38 per 1,000 cubic feet.


Report critical of pay practices at Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac

Thursday, March 31st, 2011 | Finance News

(Reuters) – The heads of bailed-out mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae (FNMA.OB) and Freddie Mac (FMCC.OB) were paid fat salaries without proper written procedures or analysis, according to a report published by the Inspector General of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA-OIG).

Also, the housing regulator Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has not considered the factors that might have possibly resulted in reduced executive compensation costs, the review report said.

The heads of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were paid a total of $17.1 million in 2009 and 2010 -- the two full years of government ownership.

The top six executives at the housing giants were paid $35.4 million over the two years, according to the report that was posted on the agency's website.

The Inspector General said FHFA has not developed written procedures to evaluate the recommended executive compensation levels each year.

"FHFA also does not provide sufficient transparency to the public of the Enterprises' executive compensation program," the Office of Inspector General said in the evaluation report.

The report recommended that FHFA should establish ongoing review and analysis process to determine the compensation levels for the top executives of mortgage finance giants.

The mortgage firms have taken more than $130 billion in direct taxpayer aid since 2008

and the U.S. government indicated in February that total cost could peak at $169 billion by late next year before beginning to shrink as they slowly repay taxpayers.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could not immediately be reached for comment by Reuters outside regular U.S. business hours.

(Reporting by Sakthi Prasad in Bangalore; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)